As a club, we play an ever-changing, ever-growing number of tabletop games. Some are well-known staples. Some are newcomers that recently riveted our attention. To give you some insight, we’re continuing this sporadic‘Games We Play’ column where we’re going to present selected game systems that bring us joy. Let’s continue this section with GW’s high fantasy game, Age of Sigmar.
The contents of this post represent the author’s opinion and are not representative of the ITGC Berlin as a whole.
The once-hated new kid on the block
Warhammer : Age of Sigmar had a rocky start, to say the least. Born out of the ashes of the World-that-Was, the game was supposed to replace Warhammer Fantasy Battle in the heart of the fantasy players around the world. Gone are the rank and files and the square bases, say hello to round bases and a more skirmish scale of battle. These drastic changes, along with the pretty bare ruleset, alienated a large part of the WHFB player base. Six years later, the game launches its 3rd edition and it seems that the game has reached a certain form of maturity and depth that attract old and new fantasy generals alike.
In our community, a budding AoS scene is taking shape and I, for one, am enjoying it thoroughly. Why, you ask? Let’s see.
The annoying little brother
Let’s acknowledge the huge elephant in the room here. AoS is the fantasy little brother of Warhammer 40k, it has a lot of similarities. It would be easy to draw comparison and target the same criticisms to AoS. Whilst, if you played AoS after 40k, you’d feel weirdly at home, the game is vastly different from its bigger brother – in all the right ways.
While 40k is a bloated mess of rules now, AoS has a more elegant ruleset. It has not been crippled by the ever creeping of power. Indeed, the first 2 battletomes that came out show a step in a good direction: providing a flavorful amount of rules, without going overboard!
3rd edition – the time of maturity
While first edition was, to put it mildly, experimental and second edition came to streamline the ruleset, third edition brought the game into a certain form of maturity. Not only did the ruleset found a balance but the lore took a direction vastly different from its illustrious predecessor. Age of Sigmar is now a beast of its own, and it’s a pleasant one.
Why do we play Age of Sigmar?
Let’s speak about the game now! I personally have several main drives and interests in playing Age of Sigmar over other systems at the moment:
- Big monsters and God-like creatures:
I won’t lie, it’s my main drive: my favorite model in GW’s whole range is the Arkanaut Ironclad, closely followed by Kragnos and Be’lakor. Not only is Games Workshop pulling out some of the most interesting, flavorful and most beautiful models (in plastic no less) – and the accompanying lore to boot.
In battle, it really feels as though gods are walking amongst mortals: they are playing and feeling as powerful as expected on the tabletop. If you are bringing one of these huge models, they will be your main weapon and/or your main power multiplier. The scale of these models is making the game truly epic. However, as powerful and stunning as they are, they are no guarantee of victory, for cheap mass infantry is still what scores and wins battles at the end of the day.
- Ye old “I go you go” …but with a twist:
Some say that system is dead… And the argument holds most of the time.
But Age of Sigmar stuck with it and keeps it alive by instilling homeopathic doses of alternate activation in the mix.
The command ability system (abilities that you can use in your opponent’s turn, such as redeploy, which allows you to redeploy a unit if your opponent come too close) is simply fantastic and offers endless strategical possibilities, while giving your heroes a capital importance in the heart of battle. And since the strongest command abilities are accessible to everyone, it makes it fair for all involved.
Secondly, the fight phase is a strict alternating activation system (with very few exceptions), so you will have to choose even your charges carefully.
On top of that, the threat of the infamous “double turn” (opponents rolling off for priority battle round) is ever-looming, and keeps you and your opponent on your toes. Deciding to go second can give you a strategic edge, or being given the first turn might compel you to not commit all your forces at once lest your opponent outmaneuvers you.
- Age of Sigmar is a game of movement:
There are deadly models, there are devastatingly strong shooting units are in the game, there are charging machines of onslaught. BUT comparing to other systems, you have significantly less of them and they are relatively less deadly: your army and your models have more chances of staying around to keep or steal objectives.
However, staying put is not the most strategically interesting thing to do: carefully planning your movements, your charges and your combats is what will win you the games, NOT your lethality.
- Finally, frankly speaking, it takes everything that’s fine with 40k and welcomes it in. Match play is simply fantastic, the battleplans offer variety and a fair balance; faction variety, there is now 25 factions to choose from, all of them have their own flavor, beautiful models and rules. The whole range being fairly new, most factions received new models in the pas few years (with a few exceptions).
On the other hand, it does away with some of the bad stuff: codex creep is not a thing: the couple of recent battletomes are fairly balanced compared to the older ones, whilst giving just the right amount of thematic rules.
That’s why I shifted focus on AoS lately. But let’s hear from two of our members: why do you like AoS?
Lilian (… by the way, her army is fantastic)
« I started to play AoS reluctantly, the first General’s Handbook had just been released and husband talked me into it, as I was still way too sour about what had happened to Fantasy to even look at AoS. I ended up finding a much more fluid game system than Fantasy and 40k (it was 7th Ed back then). I grudgingly accepted it as a more fun system but still had reservations as I’m quite lore-driven and the new AoS lore didn’t quite convince me until then. It did grow on me with time and nowadays I find it a fun system, with new releases (models, factions, lore) being mostly surprising, and often positive and enticing! 3rd edition put AoS in its best shape yet and makes me quite pumped to play, to hobby, to see what the future holds for it! »
« I like how they transitioned from some standard Fantasy themed world into something more unique with a lot of named characters and original units that feel unique and different, for example High Elfs are now something more unique with Teclis, Avalenor, kangaroo riders etc… »
Gallery (Let’s get a look at some of our members’ armies)
Szymek’s Stormcast Eternals, battling a horde of host of undead creatures
Erick’s Bonereapers are led by the Nagash, God of Death, The Supreme Overlord towers even over the Mortarch, Katakros
What do I need to play?
- You can find the core rules for free here
Let’s first give back to Cesar what belongs to Cesar : the Citadel miniatures are amazing, best on the market.
But in our group, we do not limit ourselves to the official miniatures.
- d6 dice (20 is a good place to start)
- tape measure (inches)
- the rules for your army
Nice to have
- General Handbook
- Tokens to count wounds, spells and command points
How do I play with you?
Join our Discord’s #age-of-sigmar channel and let us know you wanna play
We’ll help you out: do a demo game and suggest where to start.